Reflections on Rivierklimaatpark IJsselpoort Charrette

Lindsay Hawks

The Rivierklimaatpark IJsselpoort charrette brought together critics from different fields to help critique our proposals for the park plan. It was great to have a mixture of planners, residents, and landscape architects to reveal various lenses for the site. One exciting thing I learned from this charrette was how unique this park will be, given it provides vast amounts of river access. Thus, plans should be expected to accommodate a large interest and amount of people while balancing water safety and habitat issues. Financing the project  through on-site ventures was also a major interest.

The process was very quick, with 2 days of analysis and 2 days formulation of plans and production time. This was nerve racking but also exercised our ability to narrow down options in a short time frame and commit to a plan. Our group chose to zoom into the river front dynamics to address the issues of water safety, navigability and recreation. I enjoyed the succinct manner is which we were forced to present, as it helped us boil down the excess information and made our presentation clear and concise. One area I struggled with was understanding scale relationships, as some measurements were spans, and others were relative to the NAP. Combining these various elements and sources to get an accurate profile was challenging in the time frame.

Hang Su
During the Ijsselpoort charrette, I realized that our understanding of the site situation is not enough, like hydrology as well as local factory development. Maybe what is incorrect was that we are more willing to imagine what exciting moment will happen during the floods season, rather than focusing on the fact that drought season is more predominant. I guess it will be better to have a chance to have a “focused conversation” with local managers to see how local companies operate and the specific spacial issues. Because these element would change the design at all.

Over the presentation, some people asked us what spacial experience we want to create. This question might raise another issue: we provided a new plan without a strong experiences explanation for it, so we have to oral explain more, which is not as strong as visual explanation. I guess at this time the design is borderless among the different cultural: as a “spacial decipher”, we might have more intriguing perspectives than plans.

Rachel Kerber
The Rivierklimaatpark IJsselpoort Charrette was a whirlwind. It went by so fast and we were constantly going that I don’t think I had time to imprint an experience. We had a very quick introduction to the site, then a quick go at an idea for the sites working in two different groups and two, in my case, very different group dynamics. Then two fast moving days were followed by long days of work and revisions and lots of communication. I feel like I only had time to focus at my task at hand and then to move on to the next task and didn’t reflect on what was being done until now writing this post.

Looking back, I am happy with what my group and I produced in both general idea and in deliverables. I am amazed with what we did in such a short time, and with very limited knowledge of the site and the Dutch habitats or species that would live in them. I was probably most excited about the chance to make a rendered plan again, I hadn’t used that skill for awhile and it was sort of fun to try it again.

Joseph Nowak
In looking at the issues facing the Westervoort site along the River IJssel, we identified two main obstacles that drove our design ideas in concert with our larger framework driver of water safety. For me personally, this was a very helpful tool to guide our thinking process, but it also seemed somewhat limiting in regards to the creative process. This may also be a product of the short format of a charrette in comparison to a longer iterative process we generally approach projects with in school.

With the shorter process of a charrette, one is forced to stay very focused and because of this, having our goals clearly articulated was very helpful. I think this process was made even more interesting because of the fact that we are in a country that is still quite new to us. This forced us to soak up as much as we could from our professional contacts and seek guidance in quickly attempting to understand complex issues of water management policy and tactics.

Rachel Burand
The Rivierklimaatpark IJsselpoort charrette was a challenging design experience, but showed each of us how much can be accomplished in such a short period of time. Completing a design project from start to finish in just one week seemed like a daunting task, but the proper time management and teamwork skills we have polished over the last year and a half in the MLA program were put to the test and proved to be quite valuable.

This week was a great learning experience not only of the Dutch landscape and its complex processes, but also in site analysis and design. For five days, the fifteen of us lived and breathed the Westervoort and/or Koppenwaard sites, focusing on little else. This allowed me to dive deep into the analysis and documentation, and further into a design proposal with my group.

I most enjoyed the final review process and hearing feedback from a diverse group of designers and planners from throughout the Netherlands. Our reviewers had great insight into the long-term project and were able to provide every group with constructive feedback and positive responses. Discussing our ideas and proposals with people from completely different backgrounds was truly beneficial and will only improve our work in the future.

Spencer Bauer
Speed was the name of the game this week. After some presentations, discussions, and a limited site visit it was clear from the get go to spend my time wisely. Being used to spending days and even weeks on project preparation and production I found it extremely beneficial for myself and many of the groups to operate with such limited time constraints. For myself and my group it was extremely important that our “big idea” or over-arching theme came across as clear as possible and I believe the time played a role in that. The importance was to develop a clear narrative to allow for concise and constructive criticism to move forward with our project. The nature of the charrette process worked well for the scope of our ideas and began to help formulate our main goals and ideas.

Designing at the micro-level for such a large site actually proved to be extremely beneficial for a larger set of design ideals. It was extremely interesting to see our project develop throughout the week at such a fast pace with the help of local professionals to hone in on what could be possible for the site and for our proposals. Having a variety people involved allowed for some interesting discussions and discoveries. I found that having input from outside the realm of design was one of the most important aspects. As exhausting as this past week has been I found it equally rewarding and am looking forward to more charrettes in the coming weeks.

Grace Larson
Even a site as small as the Koppenwaard came with it’s fair share of complexities. Designing in a new place is always difficult, but adding a layer of cultural differences presented a new challenge to juggle. It really augmented the truths about making assumptions; we tend to do it to save time, but when designing in our home country we have to luxury of understanding how things work. Being in a brand new country, we had to learn pretty quickly the importance of asking questions and not being able to fill in the gaps with cultural “givens.” Traditional ways of problem-solving that we might practice at home were out the window when approaching the design for the Koppenwaard.

Participating in a week-long design charette was a whole new experience from anything I’ve ever done in design school. Projects with longer time lines allow me to indulge in my bad habit of indecisiveness; I debate, I waffle, I change my mind, and waste a lot of time second guessing my interventions. The fast paced climate of the project forced us to make decisions, and have the confidence to stand by those decisions and keep going. Obviously, a week-long project left a lot of holes to fill and improvements to make, but there was a sense of freedom in being allowed to take chances and make mistakes that came along with it.

Shiyue Zhang
The Rivierklimaatpark IJsselpoort charrette for me is a very short and fast project yet we have to deal with a lot of problems that are not quite familiar. It is a very good experience to learn from the experts who are dealing with the entire problems for their whole lives. As I mentioned before the whole process went too fast to take deep consideration of all the details, so how to think fast and distinguish the priories and minorities is pretty essential, and I think this will happen a lot in our later design carers.

Besides that, the things like how the river flows in different directions due to the local topography and the flood influence are not something I really think deeply about. So talking to local people and get everybody that related involved is another thing that matters. In all, the right judgement about what to deal with firstly and seeking a different option are the two main things that I learned from this charrette.

Karen Criales
The past week was a new experience for me and many of my friends in the program; we have worked in a fast pace in the past but never to such an extent of learning the site and producing a design by the end of the week. Even though it was stressful, it was a positive experience that allowed me to manage my time and center on the important aspects of the site rather than getting fixed on one issue alone. In that way it allows me to understand the site in a more complete way and produce the importance information that will be relevant to the design.

We had small checkup points throughout the week that helped us keep in track and manage our time. Also, it allowed us to explain what we are doing and how, and get feedback from not only our professors but also the people interested on our final designs.  We received good and different points of views on our final design from different types of individuals, from a landscape architect that work in the Netherlands, to a resident that lives close to our site. Their feedback was helpful to understand how we were able to understand and capture the idea of Dutch design.

Nicole Ponath
The charette process was a new one for me. I had never done such an extensive site in such a short amount of time. At first I was extremely overwhelmed, especially because I (somehow) had never worked with the people in my group. Nancy, the urban planner, brought a new dynamic to our group that we had never had the chance to experience before. We worked well together and quickly came up with a design and a plan to get there.

I ended up really enjoying the whole process. It was so freeing to get a chance to come up with dream designs and not have to go through the small details like every other project. The presentation process of 2 minutes to talk and then a conversation afterwards was particularly helpful because we were learning about our projects just as much as presenting ideas. This was a fast way to immerse ourselves in the Dutch design culture.

A.J. Evert
The speed and intensity at which a charrette can fly by is pretty astounding. Our Rivierklimaatpark IJsselpoort project was my first charrette experience. We have done similar work in school, but much less guided. This time around I feel like I really learned something. I feel like there are pros and cons to the whole process. What a charrette really feels like is an exam. Designers can prepare for it by doing research, but we all know the site visit is when one crams. One skims the landscape in diagonal fashion, like a book. If their eye is trained the designer can catch the important parts. The review process is where one gets the so-called grade. People who hold stake in the space tell the designer what they think of their product. In the charrette process, room for failure is room for learning.

This charrette process in the Netherlands made me very thankful for technology and our ability to analyze sites on so many varying scales because or site visit was short lived.  It also scared me a bit being so foreign to Dutch landscape ideals. I felt like I was always missing something. Understanding this though, forced me to put more faith in my design instincts, and hopefully along the way, through the process, broaden and focus those instincts. After the experience I feel more confident in my ability to come up with ideas on the fly, but I would like to augment these ideas into bigger and louder statements.

I look forward to being part of more charrette processes. I can’t shake the feeling of not getting to know the sites as well as I have been able to in the past. As I know this is a reality of today’s landscape architecture profession I would like to explore more ways for getting to know sites from a distance, or at least find ways to become better acquainted with them in short periods of time. Finding the details in large-scale sites might be difficult because scales are so huge for the sites we learn to analyze. These details, however are the foundation for the site, and might be the key to pasting the sites bigger picture together to help develop resounding ideas in charrettes. Perhaps this is where I will begin next time.

Bingqin Huang
Working on the IJsselpoort project during the last week was really amazing. It was the first time we did the entire project in just a week, including the research part, design part and presentation part. Karen, Rachel and I cooperated well in the last week. We equally decided what are we interested in; what should we focus on in about 2 hours on Tuesday and went straight to the goal.

We chose Koppenwaard as our site. The reason we chose this site is most of the part on this site is farmland and undeveloped. It has a larger possibility for development. We mainly focused on water safety and ecology in the project. We want to open the space for overflow in different seasons. We also want to create different streams to increase habitat. We used a lot of knowledge learned from the last 3 semesters. We made a storyboard at the very beginning and all work was properly ordered. Rachel focused on the master plan and some diagrams. Karen and I were working on sections, perspectives, other diagrams and layout. We finished everything by about 12:00 am. This group project was finished faster than any of the group projects I went through in the past.

Before the presentation, we felt confidence about what we did. Those design strategies including increasing habitats were used in the past design projects and seems like turned out pretty good. After the professionals from local gave us some suggestions, we realized we really thought in an American culture way. The concepts of nature and scale between American and Dutch are very different. I think this is a very helpful lesson for future design in Netherlands or in Istanbul. The whole design process was very helpful and inspiring.

Alex Hill
The Rivierklimaatpark IJsselpoort charrette was an amazing learning experience. The charrette was an exercise in rapid design development and time management as we did a site visit, analysis and inventory, as well as framework, master plans, and site design within one week. I believe this has contributed greatly to my design process as it forced me to make informed decisions quickly. Furthermore, within the inventory analysis and site design I was able to move through extreme scales and lenses. Looking at the entire Rivierklimaatpark IJsselpoort vision plan as a system during analysis (rather than diving into just one site) really provided me with the ability to see and make regional connections as well as start to view landscape constructs outside the project bounds that have a profound impact on what is happening within the six sites that Natuurmonumenten will develop.

This type of analysis led me to interest in the groynes/wing dams as both site and system. I really appreciated the variety of scale this project presented, after looking broadly across scales and context I was able to zoom in on something as small as a groyne (that can be measured in meters) and then move back out to see the sites of groynes as a system and begin to make connections to river,summer dike, green rivers, and city. Diving into fluvial geomorphology and beginning to understand how rivers and the sedimentation, deposition, and erosion processes work was fascinating and I hope this approach can follow me into my next project. I believe that getting out of the box of site boundaries and master plan really allowed me to dissect and deconstruct a small piece of infrastructure that has dramatic effects in entire systems. Once again, I am surprised to say I enjoyed the rapid design process as it is something I have not yet experienced at this quick of pace and it really allowed me to just jump into designing, and doing so off a certain set of assumptions.

Jody Rader
Since returning to school for the MLA program, the Rivierklimaatpark IJsselpoort charette was the shortest design project that I have worked on. With a finished schematic design completed on Wednesday evening, Thursday was a long day of production. This included creating and putting the images and ideas together, while making small changes to the design along the way. Friday, we printed our boards and hopped on the train to Rheden to present our proposals. Not only did this project have a short turnaround time for the design, but we worked with only with our own observations from our site visit, a short clarification session with Wim, a project manager with Natuurmonumenten, and one day of site analysis at the hostel. Needless to say, we made a lot of assumptions.

Luckily, our approach to the project (proposing an adaptable structure for the plan and creating a framework for on-going feedback loops of participatory processes) was open-ended enough for presentation. We learned from our reviewers during the presentation that a hunch we had about a future real-estate/transportation corridor was at the forefront of speculation regarding the site. What we had thought would be interpreted as a ‘leap’ was actually not so controversial.

The team of reviewers for the charette were excellent. Jan, a landscape architect who will be working alongside us for future charettes, provided thoughtful advice and I believe he was foreshadowing some issues we will be touching on soon. Also, Peter (a local resident to the Westerpoort site), gave especially insightful feedback, namely in regards to wild boar migration through this semi-urban area. Thank you to all of the reviewers (Jan, Wim, Peter, Peter, Ria, and others) for great critique. Also, thank you to the Natuurmonumenten for providing a much-needed (big) kids’ playground for us to play, post-review!